Hungarian Grand Prix: Pre Race Thoughts

Nico Rosberg just snatched pole position from Sebastian Vettel in the final moments of qualifying, with Valtteri Bottas just a tenth of a second behind the Red Bull. Qualifying was a bit of a mixed bag with track conditions, and grid positions. Rosberg topped the time sheets throughout all three sessions, though Hamilton’s potential in the session will never be known. A fuel leak to Hamilton’s F1 Wo5 meant the Brit’s qualifying went up in flames only a few minutes into the first session, literally. The team now have the choice for Hamilton to start from either the back of the grid of the pit lane.

The second sector played right into the Red Bulls hands, as both Vettel and Ricciardo put in good qualifying performances. The RB10 benefit’s the most from the low-speed-high-downforce nature of the Hungaroring. Vettel kept the pressure on Rosberg all through qualifying, as he even managed to out qualify Ricciardo with a 1:23.201, which for a brief moment looked good enough for pole position. Ricciardo was just 0.190s behind Vettel, taking P4.

Bottas split the two Red Bull after a very clean qualifying session. The Williams driver ran well in all three sessions, keeping up at the top of the time sheets with every timed lap. The Finn only went out on one timed lap in the second session, but managed to get it in before the double waved yellows for Kvyat’s spin at the final corner, securing him a place in Q3. Massa was less than a second behind his team mate through out the afternoon though couldn’t improve on his final lap in Q3, settling for P6.

Ferrari had the strongest strategy in qualifying*, keeping both Alonso and Raikkonen in the garage at the end of the first session. Alonso was safe, making it through to Q3 to put in a time of 1:23.909 on the soft compound tyres for P5. Assuming that both drivers were safe to go through to the second session, Raikkonen’s 1:26.792 on the medium compound tyres was knocked into the drop zone with P17 by a late run by Bianchi in the Marussia. To add insult to injury, the Ferrari Academy driver is rumoured to replace Kimi at the Scuderia when the Finn retires.

McLaren’s MP4-29 has benefited from the banning of FRIC, and the high downforce circuit. Button finished the session in a strong position for the team, sitting in P4 with 1:24.294 on the soft compound, until Massa and Alonso improved on their times. Ricciardo’s final run pushed Button down to start P7. Magnussen’s session was cut short only a few minutes into Q3. On the run down into turn 1, the track conditions suddenly changed from dry to wet. The Dane had no grip, or opportunity to reduce his speed as he careered side on into the barriers. The hefty impact red flagged the session with 9:59 mins left. With no time set, Magnussen will start from pit lane.

It was a good session for Vergne, who in the Toro Rosso made it through to Q3. Vergne steadily improved throughout the afternoon, until damp track conditions in the final session saw the STR9 a little more tentative on the lap. The light rain at the start of the session wasn’t enough to bring out the inters, so on the soft compound tyres Vergne put in a 1:24.720 for P8. Kvyat span at T12 at the end of Q2. The STR9 looked to have an issue with the brakes, losing the back on the final corner and causing double waved yellows. The Russian’s time of 1:24.706 before his incident was good enough to put the Toro Rosso in P11.

Force India were slow to get it together in qualifying. Hulkenberg sat near the drop zone in Q1, as even on the soft compound tyres he couldn’t get the VJM07 to bite into the corners. On a late run in Q1, the Force India got it together and pulled himself out of danger. The grip improved as the session went on, with Hulkenberg eventually putting in a 1:24.775 in the final session for P9. Sergio Perez was another mechanical casualty in qualifying. A hydraulic leak put a premature end to the Mexican’s session, set to start P13.

Both Sutil and Gutierrez made it through to Q2 for Sauber, despite the C33 looking less than compliant at the Hungaroring. Even on the grippier** soft compound tyres, the Sauber didn’t appear to bite down into the corners. Sutil battled the C33 to put in a 1:25.136 for P12. Gutierrez was unlucky to get caught in Kvyat’s yellow flags, backing off and unable to improve on his 1:25.260 for P14.

Grosjean was the only Lotus out in qualifying. Maldonado barely made it passed the pit exit before his E22 called it a day, forcing the Venezuelan to park up on the side of the track. Grosjean, like the Force India, was slow to get it together in Q1, but pulled himself through with an impressive late run at the end of the first session. Grosjean improved on his Q1 time, but not enough to make an appearance in the final session. The best the Frenchman could get out of the E22 was 1:25.337 for P15.

Marussia have a lot of reason to celebrate in one half of the garage, with Bianchi making an impressive appearance in Q2 by knocking out Kimi Raikkonen at the end of the first session. Bianchi qualified P16, though his final flying lap was compromised by double waved yellows. Chilton had a less exciting session, with a fuel pressure issue leaving him with a slower than usual lap, qualifying P19.

Caterham unsurprisingly round out the back of the grid, with Kobayashi qualifying P18 ahead of Ericsson’s P20. A small positive for the team, Ericsson’s 1:28.643 was this time within the 107% time (1:30.886) this session.

Usually, it would be expected that Hamilton would make his way through the field easily from the back of the grid. At the Hungaroring, where overtaking is extremely difficult, it would be lucky if he made it into the points… if he weren’t Lewis Hamilton. As much as I hate to admit it, the Mercedes driver is one of the only drivers on the grid who’d be able to drive to the kind of calibre to overtake the majority of the field. Even with the playing field somewhat levelled, Mercedes power continue to dominate, though this is Red Bull’s best chance of a win since Canada. In any case, tomorrow’s race will be unmissable.

– Alex

* That’s sarcasm in case you couldn’t tell.

**Another technical term there

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